Nature Walk at Jemison Park

Lesser Celandine (“Ficaria verna”)

Jemison Park Nature Trail is one of my favorite local spots. This greenway follows Shades Creek and meanders through Mountain Brook. It’s just a hop, skip and jump away from central Birmingham.

I’ve written about iNaturalist on this blog before, and I’m featuring it again in this post about my recent nature walk through Jemison Park. If you’re in the Birmingham area and want to learn about iNaturalist from an expert, I recommend “Introduction to iNaturalist,” presented by Dr. John Friel of the Alabama Museum of Natural History on May 6, 2018, 1-3:30 p.m., at Ruffner Mountain.

I’ve been using the iNaturalist app since attending one of Dr. Friel’s presentations last year. I find it helps me better observe and appreciate the intricacies of nature, which makes spending time outdoors all the more rewarding. I also like recording and identifying plants in natural areas because my hope is to gradually transform our privet-filled wooded backyard into a woodland garden.

Here is what I observed on my walk through Jemison Park:

Lesser Celandine (“Ficaria verna”)

I believe this ground cover (also pictured at the top of this post) is lesser Celandine (“Ficaria verna”). iNaturalist’s photo identification software suggested this ID. I carefully compared the database’s photos against mine. I think it’s a match, but the ID needs confirmation from the iNaturalist online community of citizen scientists. This plant is definitely going on my woodland garden wish list. [Update: Another iNaturalist participant later confirmed this ID!]


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Next is Italian Arum (“Arum italicum”). Once again, iNaturalist software helped me venture a guess on the ID. A fellow user, who happens to be pursuing a doctorate in marine ecology and phycology, agreed. That moved my ID up to research grade. It will stay that way as long as two-thirds of iNaturalist users concur.

I also learned that some gardeners underplant Italian Acum with hostas. When hostas die back in winter, Italian Acum will maintain an attractive ground cover. I already have hostas, so I am definitely going to try this!

Beaked Trout-Lily (“Erythronium rostratum”)

The identification of the Beaked Trout-Lily (“Erythronium rostratum”) above illustrates the combined power of software and collective human brainpower in making sense of the vast numbers of observations uploaded to iNaturalist.

After looking through the software’s suggestions, my best guess at an ID was a Yellow Trout Lily (“Erythronium americanum”). However, another citizen scientist, self-described as a “hobbyist botanist, reasonably well-read on trillium and solidago,” countered that the plant I observed was in fact a Beaked Trout-Lily. His argument: “prominent auricles at the base of the tepals which encircle filaments; tepals not streaked with purple; flower not nodding; petals not sharply reflexed.”

This is a good time to mention another tip about using iNaturalist. Even if you are an amateur, do your best to research and identify your observations starting with kingdom at a minimum, and narrowing down the taxonomy as much as you can. The iNaturalist software and other references can help you do this, as long as you employ common sense and pay attention to the details. The more you can help narrow it down, the more likely someone who actually knows their stuff will look at what you’ve posted. They can then confirm your ID, further narrow it down or correct it if needed.

I’ll close this post with a few more iNaturalist observations from Jemison Park Nature Trail.

Red Buckeye (“Aesculus pavia”)


Little Sweet Betsy (“Trillium cuneatum”), also known as toadshade


My suggested ID, unconfirmed: Common Blue Violet (“Viola sororia”)

The Joy of Tiny Things


Left: Tiny bluet (Houstonia pulsilla). Right: Henbit deadnettle (Lamium amplexicaule), dandelion, sedum, creeping jenny and garden thyme.

Appreciate the little things, sometimes even weeds.

My perennials have been coming back to life the past couple of weeks, including herbs, heuchera, creeping jenny, moss and various sedum plants growing in the nooks and crannies of the terrace walls. And, of course, weeds. I can find weeds quite pretty– especially if they are native and/or beneficial to the environment–and they are the inspiration for the tiny arrangements featured in this post.



I am fairly certain that the small lavender-blue flowers pictured above, are tiny bluets (Houstonia pulsilla), native to the Southeast. Moss covers our shady backyard, and the tiny bluets, with blooms no more than a centimeter in diameter, look so pretty against the blanket of vibrant green. I arranged them in a small amber-colored bottle. I will warn you that I had to pull out the tweezers for this one. (As my husband was kind enough to notice, I had a lot of free time that day.)

Henbit deadnettle (Lamium amplexicaule)

The next arrangement features the vibrant purple-pink flowers of henbit deadnettle (Lamium amplexicaule), along with a dandelion, sedum, creeping jenny and garden thyme. Native to the Mediterranean, henbit deadnettles are fairly ubiquitous today. They attract pollinators and are a food source for some animals. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even eat them as an herb. (I haven’t tried them, but the leaves smell like parsley.)

Except for the dandelion, which apparently does not last long once picked, this rustic bouquet has brightened my kitchen for almost a week now.

Note: To see what other garden bloggers have put “In a Vase on Monday” check out Cathy’s blog and comments.